GAME STORY: Big first half fuels Hawley boys past Cisco, to top of District 10-2A standings

HAWLEY — Hosting Cisco with sole possession of the District 10-2A lead on the line, the Hawley boys basketball team rode a dominant first half to a 65-51 win Monday at Bearcat Gym. 

The Bearcats outscored the Loboes 31-13 in the first 16 minutes and stretched their lead to 19 points on two occasions in the third quarter before holding off a furious Cisco rally over the final quarter and a half. 

The victory, which followed a 60-41 Cisco win in the girls game, improved the Bearcats (10-4 overall) to 8-1 in 10-2A play, while the Loboes fell to 19-6 on the season and 7-2 in district action. That gives Hawley a one-game lead on CHS and Albany (11-3, 7-2) with three league games remaining.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Eula’s Gray tops 1,500-point mark, claims this week’s award.

Eula’s Clayton Gray, our Big Country Preps Player of the Week for the week ending Feb. 4, earned the accolade on two fronts. Not only did he post big numbers in consecutive wins over Moran and Rising Star, but he also reached an impressive milestone in the process. 

To begin with, the junior guard chalked up 29 points, six boards and four blocks in a win over Moran. He also tallied 43 points, eight boards and four steals in a win over Rising Star.

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SIGNING DAY: Six Cooper athletes celebrate college decisions during weather-postponed ceremony

Six Cooper athletes made their college commitments public Monday during a Signing Day ceremony at Cougar Gym that was rescheduled from last week due to the winter storm that whipped through Abilene and most of the state.

Surrounded by family, friends, teammates and coaches, five CHS football players — quarterback/athlete Chris Warren, receivers Malik Jackson, D’Andre Ralston and Cam Herron and defensive back Michael Ramis — joined girls basketball standout Karrigan Parrott in announcing the universities for which they will continue their athletic careers collegiately.

Warren and Ralston are both headed to Hardin-Simmons, while Ramis will also stay local and compete at McMurry. Herron will join that trio in the Division III ranks at Trinity in San Antonio, while Ramis will play NAIA football for Arizona Christian University. 

Parrott, the lone girls athlete to participate in Monday’s ceremony after fellow basketball player Kyla Speights (Texas Wesleyan) and volleyballer Skyla Stark (Hill College) announced commitments earlier, will head east to compete at the next level for DIII Texas-Dallas in Richardson.

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THIS WEEK IN GIRLS BASKETBALL: With the regular season coming to a close, things are beginning to heat up

With the regular season ending on Tuesday, our annual postseason adventure is about to begin, with playoff action set to begin by next Monday.

Of course, the end of this week will offer multiple tie-breakers, as always, most of which have yet to be determined. But some of those possibilities offer what may be some of the best basketball games we’ve seen this year, as they always do.

At any rate, it’s time to dive into this week’s action, along with a peek at the top games from last week. 

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THIS WEEK IN BOYS BASKETBALL: District races hitting stretch run after wild, weather-impacted week

While winter weather did a number on the Big Country basketball schedule last week, most scheduled games have finally been played, adding some clarity to the stretch run of our district championship and playoff races.

There’s still plenty of intrigue remaining on the boys side, however, so keep reading for a look at the area’s top matchups this week:

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GAME STORY: Peaster sweeps Brock in varsity doubleheader to lock up one district title and nearly clinch another

BROCK — What began as an exciting evening for Brock boys and girls basketball on Saturday ended their archrival spoiling most of the potential fun. 

Having two opportunities to throw the District 8-3A races into turmoil, Brock was dealt consecutive defeats in a varsity doubleheader, falling 73-30 in the girls game and 50-44 on the boys’ side.

Had the Brock girls won, the Lady Eagles would have forced a first-place tie with Peaster in District 8 with two games to go. Instead, the Lady Greyhounds locked up the district title by creating a two-game lead. They now own a tiebreaker over Brock, having won both meetings with BHS. 

The Brock boys faced a similar situation: down a game to Peaster with a chance to grab a piece of first place. They are now trailing the Greyhounds by two games with four games remaining with the tiebreaker in Peaster’s favor. Therefore, Peaster would have to lose three of its final four games to open the door for the Eagles — a highly unlikely scenario for a team which will enter next week at 23-5 and 10-0 in district play. 

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GAME STORY: Cooper girls ride near perfect first half to crucial Senior Day win over Lubbock High

Facing off with Lubbock High in a game they needed to win to maintain any hope of reaching the playoffs, the Cooper Lady Cougars put forth their best effort of the year Saturday afternoon at Cougar Gym.

Playing with the sense of urgency one might expect in a must-win game, coach Brandon Hudson’s squad scored 45 first-half points and stretched 21-point halftime lead to 30 in the third quarter before closing out a 67-48 Senior Day victory.

The win improved Cooper to 20-13 overall and 4-7 in District 4-5A play, pulling the Lady Cougars within a game of LHS (21-13, 5-6) with one game remaining on the district schedule. That sets up another must-win Tuesday at Lubbock Coronado, and potentially another after that should the fourth-place Lady Westerners fall as expected to top-ranked Lubbock Monterey.

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GAME STORY: Sweetwater boys stymie Snyder for big road win; Lady Tigers take care of Lady Mustangs

SNYDER — With both the Snyder and Sweetwater boys basketball teams riding waves of momentum into Friday’s District 5-4A showdown, fans packed the Snyder gymnasium expecting to see a thrilling encore to the first matchup between the teams, which saw the Tigers take a 40-38 win on a layup at the buzzer.

Unfortunately for those on the home side of the gym, the Mustangs had different plans.

Coming in on a two-game winning streak after an 0-4 district start, including a 61-60 victory over Levelland on Thursday, Sweetwater stifled Snyder for four full quarters, building a 23-point third-quarter lead on their way to a 40-27 win over their rival.

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FEATURE: Jayton’s Williams a nightmare matchup at the Class 1A level

JAYTON — High school guards who stand 6-foot-4 are uncommon at the Class 6A level. But in Class 1A, sightings of this nature are less frequent than those of Bigfoot.

Yet in Jayton, where the No. 2-ranked Class 1A Jaybirds are currently 21-1, there is ample size to go around, including at the point guard spot where 6-foot-4 senior Nathaniel Williams is currently running the Jayton offense. And this isn’t out of necessity due to a lack of options — he’s simply that good. 

Add the fact that Jayton is already blessed with an abundance of height, featuring 6-5 forward Caleb Beck and 6-4 forward Griff Reel, and Williams is freed up to do what he does best — work the perimeter, drive and score, dish, or shoot from beyond the arc.

Entering this week’s games, the senior was averaging 16.5 points, 5.2 boards and 4.1 assists. He’s shooting an eye-popping 59.8 percent from the floor, including a red-hot 44.7-percent tally from 3-point range.

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SIGNING DAY: Five Abilene High football players headed to collegiate ranks

Because of the winter storm that hit the state earlier this week, National Signing Day came and went without fanfare this year. But with a clear weather forecast on Friday, five Abilene High football players were celebrated for the college decisions they made official with their Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Three Eagles defensive backs — safety Noah Hatcher (Midwestern State) and cornerbacks Kwame Collins and Jayson Henley (both Angelo State) — all signed to play scholarship football at the Division II level, while linebacker Kenneth Johnson (McMurry) and receiver Tim Outlaw (Hardin-Simmons) committed to play Division III football locally.

That group was supported by family, friends, coaches and teammates during Signing Day ceremony at the AHS fieldhouse that served as an opportunity to show younger players in the Eagles football program what can happen with hard work and dedication.

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AREA SIGNEES LIST: Stanaland, Lawson among the area’s top signees

With Signing Day 2023 in the books, the Big Country will be placing several of its athletes on college campuses across the country, including multiple Division I signees. 

Headlining this year’s group are Jim Ned lineman Gage Stanaland, who has inked a Letter of Intent with Oklahoma State University and Breckenridge defensive lineman-fullback Jerry Lawson, who will be playing football right here in the Big Country with Abilene Christian University. Lawson is one of three Breckenridge athletes who will be heading to DI institutions, the others being Sean Cooksey and Chase Lehr.

Stanaland, a 6-foot-5, 290-pounder, originally committed to Navy and received offers from UTEP, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. Texas A&M and Baylor were showing interest but never offered. However, Oklahoma State suddenly entered the pursuit late in the game and convinced him to become a Cowboy. 

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FEATURE: Cox leads Coahoma into important district weekend

It’s a big weekend for Isabella Cox and the Coahoma girls basketball team. 

The Bulldogettes need to spring a couple upsets starting Friday night against Wall and following with Merkel the next day to have a chance at the postseason. 

A year after leading Coahoma to its first district title since 2008, Cox and the Bulldogettes have faced more than their fair share of adversity this winter. 

UIL realignment landed Coahoma into a district with three ranked teams in No. 2 Jim Ned, No. 14 Wall and No. 19 Merkel. To make matters more challenging, Cox sprained her ankle and was forced to miss multiple district games. 

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FEATURE: Snyder boys finding their stride after challenging nondistrict stretch

Photos courtesy of Lee Scott

The Snyder boys basketball season, seemingly stuck in free-fall mode as recently as a month ago, now has the Tiger faithful thinking this could be a team that makes some noise in the playoffs.

Following a 10-point loss to Shallowater on Jan. 6, Coach Lee Scott’s squad had wrapped up the pre-district portion of the season with a 5-15 record. With District 5-4A play looming on the horizon, not even a good number of “moral victories” mixed among the defeats foretold what would happen next.

Snyder took down Big Spring by 11 points and Sweetwater by two. District favorite Lubbock Estacado slowed the momentum by beating the Tigers 51-42, but Snyder rebounded, both literally and figuratively, by winning its next two district games, 44-36 over San Angelo Lake View and 49-43 over Levelland.

A second win over Big Spring on Thursday (47-34) has the 5-1 Tigers in second place behind Estacado, and Scott has his team thinking that even the powerful Matadors aren’t invincible.

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GAME STORY: Lubbock Coronado too much for Abilene High in doubleheader sweep

Playing Lubbock Coronado in a game delayed two days by inclement weather, the Abilene High boys basketball team saw a sluggish start doom its hopes of a District 4-5A upset Thursday in a 68-54 loss at Eagle Gym.

The Eagles trailed 9-2 less than three minutes into the game and never fully recovered in falling to 11-15 overall and 3-6 in league play.

After the Mustangs’ lead reached a game-high 21 points (37-16) late in the second quarter, AHS rallied to pull within 10 in the third. But that was as close as coach Justin Reese’s squad would get as Coronado pushed its lead back to 20 points by the 1:27 mark of the third and was never threatened again.

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FEATURE: Versatile Smith putting on a show for dangerous Coleman team

Braxton Smith spent the fall as a dynamic receiver and defensive back for Coleman’s football team. 

But from a young age, Smith’s favorite sport has been basketball. 

“Basketball has always been my happy place,” Smith said. “The success we had in football has made me want to keep pushing and striving to become better and better because settling for less is not an option.”  

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Big Country Girls Basketball Statistical Leaders (through Feb. 2): Scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, FT Pct., pass deflections and blocks

Below are the current season statistical leaders for Big Country girls basketball through Feb. 2.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the regular season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

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Big Country Boys Basketball Statistical Leaders (through Feb. 2): Scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, FT Pct., pass deflections and blocks

Below are the current season statistical leaders for Big Country boys basketball through Feb. 2.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the regular season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

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FEATURE: Cauthen sisters coming up big for young Eula Lady Pirates

With Eula storming through District 13-1A play with a 7-0 record (and a 21-9 mark overall), the 16th-ranked Lady Pirates are a living testament to the notion that, sometimes, Plan B can come in pretty handy.

Consider that when the year started, coach Josh Fostel was blessed with a nice mix of size and athleticism. The team had the potential to score inside and outside, and, because the coach’s name is Fostel, everyone who has followed Eula basketball knows that it was going to play solid defense.

Then the season started, and “size” suffered a knock-down blow. 

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FEATURE: Gordon’s “Kiddie Corps” one of the Big Country’s top surprises for 2023

Photos by Lily Cormack 

GORDON — A year ago, the Gordon boys basketball team was in the midst of a mediocre campaign that finished with an 11-12 record and a 3-9 mark in district. 

So when graduation clobbered the Longhorns over the offseason, it was logical for most to assume that Gordon was about to endure a period of rebuilding. And only heaven would know how long such a project would take. 

In actuality, it took less than a year. 

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FEATURE: Highland’s Taylor Allen closing high school career on a high note

Photos courtesy of Kevin Wright 

Taylor Allen has accomplished many impressive feats during her four years playing basketball at Highland. 

The 5-foot-8 standout has earned all-state honors during her first three seasons. By averaging 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists this year, a fourth all-state nod seems like a lock. 

Allen has led the Lady Hornets to the regional tournament and has already signed to play basketball at Division II powerhouse Lubbock Christian. 

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FEATURE: Senior glue guy Falade an unsung hero for Cooper boys basketball team

Sharing the court with one of the area’s best forwards in Jaelyn Rivera and a pair of talented guards in Kam Gray and Jordan Willis, Cooper senior Maxwell Falade knows he’s a role player. 

But in watching the Cougars play, you realize pretty quickly just how important that role is.

While Falade’s name may not jump off the stat sheet the way some of his teammates’ do, his energy and effort on both ends of the court are critical to his team’s success. And if you ask coach Bryan Conover what makes him such a special person and valuable player, you had better be ready for a lengthy response.

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BIG COUNTRY PREPS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Benjamin’s Rigdon on an unbelievable scoring pace

He entered last week as the leading scorer in the entire Big Country, putting up more than 37 points per game. So few will be surprised to hear that Benamin’s Grayson Ridgon has put up yet another performance worthy of our Big Country Preps Player of the Week Award. 

Yet last week’s numbers were big, even by his standards. 

Helping the Mustangs to consecutive routs of Harrold (100-36) and Crowell (93-53), the sophomore guard poured in 50 and 51 points respectively and even found time to snag a head-turning 20 rebounds in the Crowell win. 

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THIS WEEK IN GIRLS BASKETBALL: Despite uncooperative weather, this week is promising

Several crucial matchups are on this week’s slate for both boys and girls and wouldn’t you know it? Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.  

As of right now, several area games originally scheduled for Tuesday night have been bumped to Monday in order to beat a cold, wintery storm expected to arrive on Jan. 31. We have an updated list of those games here. 

In the meantime, let’s have a look at the top area girls games for this week. 

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THIS WEEK IN BOYS BASKETBALL: Area playoff, title races continue to take shape with loaded slate on deck

The winter weather expected to hit the Big Country this week can’t cool off the area boys basketball playoff races, which continue to heat up as we approach the final three weeks of the regular season. 

Here’s a look at some of the biggest matchups in store for this week as well as a look back at some of last week’s most important games:

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FEATURE: Hermesmeyers spearheading all-around team effort in Goldthwaite

GOLDTHWAITE — The Goldthwaite girls basketball program’s motto this year is “US.” 

It stands for “Unified Squad,” and that unselfish approach is one main reason why the Lady Eagles enter the week with a 23-3 record and are No. 21 in the Class 2A rankings. 

While coach Angie Hermesmeyer wants this season to be about the team more than any individual, it’s worth noting the growth of a certain individual she shares a residence with. 

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GAME STORY: Coleman boys ride big third quarter to key road win over Colorado City

COLORADO CITY — Leading Colorado City just 22-20 at halftime Friday, the Coleman boys basketball team opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run and protected that cushion the rest of the way for a 49-41 win to close the first half of District 8-2A play with a perfect 5-0 record.

That surge out of halftime was part of a 15-6 third-quarter run for the Bluecats that turned a tie game in the final minute of the second quarter into an 11-point lead by the start of the fourth.

The Wolves never got closer than seven points in the the final eight minutes, seeing their district record fall to 3-2 with the loss.

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GAME STORY: Breckenridge sweeps Eastland in varsity doubleheader at BHS

BRECKENRIDGE — The Breckenridge girls and boys basketball teams had different reasons for needing wins over Eastland in Friday’s varsity doubleheader in Breckenridge.

But by night’s end, both had achieved their mission in a convincing two-game sweep at Breckenridge High School. 

The BHS girls opened the twin bill with a come-from-behind 48-32 win to secure their hold on a playoff seed. The Breckenridge boys completed the sweep in the nightcap to keep their fading playoff hopes alive with a 48-31 win.

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GAME STORY: Wylie boys lose thriller as Lubbock Monterey sweeps doubleheader

Martin Marshall had the look that Wylie wanted as the clock was ticking down.

The junior guard caught a pass from Hunter Hood with two seconds left and unleashed a 3-pointer from the wing in an attempt to send the Bulldogs’ District 4-5A showdown with Lubbock Monterey into overtime.

But Marshall’s shot bounced off the rim and out, allowing the Plainsmen to escape Bulldog Gym with a 56-53 win in which neither team was ever able to take complete control.

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FEATURE: Young Wylie Bulldogs riding wave of momentum into second round of district play

With an 11-15 overall record and a 3-4 mark in District 4-5A play, the Wylie boys basketball team has faced its share of adversity this season.

In fact, due to an extended playoff run by the school’s football team that delayed the arrival of several key players and a handful of instances where others missed time to illness or injury, few teams have played more lineups or experienced more roster upheaval. 

But after a tumultuous start that saw the Bulldogs drop six of their first seven games and 11 of their first 14, coach Gregg Ruffin’s young squad seems to finally be rounding into form.

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FEATURE: Suprising, youthful Stephenville girls on the verge of school victory record

Photos courtesy of Moises Espinosa

Lillie Skiles battles for a rebound against Aledo on Nov. 21.

STEPHENVILLE — Coming off a 25-win season with 60 percent of its roster having graduated, this year’s Stephenville girls basketball team was expected to be a good, but not great Class 4A team by those paying attention in the Big Country. 

No miracles were projected by the media and even fourth-year coach Jason Hodges was guardedly optimistic about his club due to a roster that included six sophomores and two freshmen. 

Flash forward to today: The Honeybees are 27-3 overall, 4-1 in District 6-4A, ranked 13th in the state and (if Hodges’ ongoing research is correct), on the verge of tying a school record for wins in a season, set in 2012. Add the fact that the ‘Bees are fielding only two seniors and two juniors against a deliberately difficult schedule, and you have a story which is catching the eye of the entire area. 

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FEATURE: Abilene basketball officials work hard to ensure games go smoothly

From coaches and players to clock operators and official scorekeepers, it takes a lot of people to ensure that basketball games are run smoothly across the United States.

But none of the games could happen if not for two or three others on the court that hope you don’t notice them — the referees.

For Tuesday’s Southtown Showdown between Cooper and Wylie, the Abilene Basketball Chapter of the Texas High School Basketball Officials Association gave BigCountryPreps.com an all-access, behind-the-scenes look at what all goes into a game for them.

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Big Country Boys Basketball Statistical Leaders (through Jan. 26): Scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, FT Pct., pass deflections and blocks

Below are the current season statistical leaders for Big Country boys basketball through Jan. 26.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the regular season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

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Big Country Girls Basketball Statistical Leaders (through Jan. 26): Scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, FT Pct., pass deflections and blocks

Below are the current season statistical leaders for Big Country girls basketball through Jan. 26.

This database will be continually updated for our subscribers throughout the regular season, using only those statistics submitted by area coaches.

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GAME STORY: Lubbock Monterey cruises past Abilene High for doubleheader sweep

A slow start doomed the Abilene High boys basketball team Wednesday against District 4-5A leader Lubbock Monterey, which scored the first 12 points and 18 of the first 20 in a 64-39 win at Eagle Gym.

The Eagles, who fell to 10-14 overall and 2-5 in league play with the loss, didn’t get on the board until the final seconds of the first quarter, when Sawyer Moss’ layup cut the Plainsmen’s lead to 12-2. But that was as close as AHS would get the rest of the way as Monterey opened the second quarter on an 8-2 run and pushed its lead to 35-11 by the opening minute of the second half.

The lopsided affair closed a forgettable doubleheader for Abilene High, which saw its girls defeated 79-25 by the top-ranked Lady Plainsmen in the evening’s early game.

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